India is home to more than a billion people and this is expected rise to 1.6 billion by 2050. More than 70% Indians live in rural areas today but it is expected that 60% of a much larger population will live in urban areas in 2050. Both these trends support the projection that 70% of buildings required by India in 2050 are yet to be built. Therefore the Government has put a number of programmes in place to ensure universal housing. These include 100 Smart Cities Mission, Housing for All, Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Transformation (AMRUT), Make in India and construction GDP is almost eight percent of overall GDP of the country.
This is great for the sector but buildings are a major source of emissions. A case study on “Construction in India” by Development Alternatives states that the construction sector in India emits about 22% of the total annual emission of CO2 emitted by the Indian economy. A lot of energy is consumed throughout the life cycle of buildings thus making them a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Energy statistics 2013 of India’s National Statistical Organisation (NSO) show that electricity accounted for more than 57% of the total energy consumption during 2011-12 in India; building sector consumes close to 40% of the electricity.
Construction also leads to a lot of waste. A study done by Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission estimates that construction industry in India, annually generates about 10-12 million tonnes of waste. While some of the items like bricks, tiles wood, metal, etc. are re-used and recycled, concrete and masonry constituting about 50% of the construction & demolition waste, is not currently recycled in India. While its low cost and high levels of adaptability makes cement a favourite material for construction, large quantities of CO2 emission associated with its manufacturing makes it a significant contributor to global warming.
There is, thus, a huge opportunity to adopt technologies right through the lifecycle of construction and use of buildings that reduce the emission burden on the earth and thus make them more sustainable.
Buildings become sustainable by using designs that reduce the need for energy post construction. They use materials that have low carbon footprint, have high local relevance and reduce the incidence of waste. The manner of construction is not energy intensive and causes significantly lower levels of pollution. These buildings employ appliances and machinery that are highly energy efficient. Water fixtures and recycling methods leads to lower consumption of fresh water per capita than in conventional buildings. Design methods lead to facilitation of water harvesting and ground water recharge. Waste management systems ensure that recycling and reuse of waste is maximised while the waste going to landfills is minimised. Adoption of landscaping techniques leads to reduction of heat island effects and dust levels in the vicinity of the building. Living conditions in these buildings lead to superior productivity and higher sense of well-being. Sustainable buildings are therefore green in a plethora of ways.
It might raise the possibility that all this would raise the cost of construction of a building to make it sustainable. Over time the incremental cost incurred has been steadily decreasing and in recent times it has been observed by leading developers that there is often no incremental cost. The benefits received by residents in the course of living in the building are however getting stronger by the day.
The good news for India is that over 2,400 green building projects in the country have already been constructed or are being constructed. This makes India a country with the largest green footprint in the world after the USA as per the Indian Green Building Council.
Some developers have been early adopters of green building technologies. But the movement needs to become widespread if the sector is to make a tangible difference. To enable this the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank institution, has built a coalition of some pioneering, like-minded developers such as Mahindra Lifespace Developers, Godrej Properties, Tata Housing, Value Budget Homes and Shapoorji Pallonji as a part of their eco-cities program supported by the European Union. The coalition is called the Sustainable Housing Leadership Consortium which has taken upon itself the task of identifying technologies to make buildings sustainable and enabling policy to ensure widespread adoption of the best green technologies in a viable manner.
The founding members of the consortium have committed to make their housing portfolio completely sustainable by 2017 and achieve 20% reduction in incremental variable costs. The consortium will provide leadership and advocacy to make 20% of India’s new housing construction sustainable by 2022.The programme is working to catalyse the green-buildings market and promote climate-smart infrastructure projects in five selected cities with a focus on scalable and replicable clean energy and resource-efficient solutions.
This is an admirable initiative by members of the housing construction sector. It will lead to far-reaching change in ways we can barely imagine. Together with the path-breaking work on sustainable technologies done by the Indian cement industry, the impact of technologies adopted by the housing sector will lead to a sea change in the emission rate, fresh water usage, waste management and resident well-being by the industry. India’s urbanisation will then be another welcome “green revolution”.
Anirban Ghosh is the Chief Sustainability Officer at the Mahindra Group. He has been working with Group in Sales, Marketing and Strategy since 1999 and has been recognised as a distinguished CSO in his current role. A gold medal winning engineer from Jadavpur University, Calcutta, Ghosh has pursued doctoral studies in Marketing Management at IIM Ahmedabad. He enjoys music, reading, travelling, driving, cricket and tennis. He is an active public speaker and has represented the nation at the Festival of India across multiple nations.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.